How to get a beach body

cropped-hum.jpg

A little bit of a rant from Meg

 

I have the secret!

 

Wait for it….

 

Drumroll please….

 

  1. Buy a gorgeous bikini
  2. Put it on
  3. Go to the beach

 

No way. Really?

Yep, it really is that simple!

In the run up to the summer holidays there are so many special offers with gyms, slimming clubs and personal trainers, offering their services to get you get “beach ready.”  They may involve some kind of boot camp, a special detox or join for free special offer.

And while I respect that everyone has to make a living, there’s something about promotions like these that make me a bit uneasy.

Think back to your last holiday at the beach. How many cellulite free, wobble free, six pack perfect bodies did you see?

I didn’t see any.

Every single person in the beach or at the hotel resort poolside that is wearing a bikini has flaws.

Cellulite, thread veins, stretch marks, lumps and bumps, scars. Large, small, fat, thin, toned, soft, you will not find the perfect body at the beach. I guarantee you that if you asked every single woman at the beach, they’d be able to tell you one thing they disliked about their body.

And what exactly is the perfect body? What defines that, anyway?

It’s completely subjective. I have my opinion, you have yours, and that’s totally cool.

You know what bugs me about these bikini body campaigns? Is that you’ll work really hard, for months leading up to the holiday to get your “beach body” and then go away for two weeks, party hard, hit the cocktails, hit up the all inclusive buffet, and come home carrying a food baby. 

You’ll return home feeling bloated, guilty and back to square one. You’ll then spend MORE money at that slimming club or gym. You might find it hard to get back on the wagon, find it hard to adjust to being home again (post holiday blues, anyone?) and plod along only half heartedly sticking to your diet or fitness plan. Before you know it, it’s September, then it’s October, and the dark nights come back, sedentary evenings in front of the TV with the fire on, comfort food and baggy clothes.

The next thing that you see is “Get little black dress ready!” There are Christmas work parties, nights out, and yet more special offers at the slimming club or gym.

Here’s the thing – slimming clubs and gyms know this. They use smart marketing to guilt you into something that is not sustainable, to make you keep coming back and starting again when you fall off the wagon.

THIS is why obesity statistics in this country are on the rise – we’re in a yo-yo dieting epidemic!

Diet’s don’t work – and here’s why.

Just over two years ago, when I first started this blog, I had just lost around 35lbs for my sister’s wedding. I had weighed in on the scales at the heaviest weight I’d ever been in my adult life after a rough winter and a severe bout of depression, and had to buy a pair of size 20 jeans.

It was mid March 2014, and my sister was getting married on 8th July 2014. I didn’t want to be a fat bridesmaid – I was on a mission.

I started running again, doing HIIT workouts, and logging every single bite on My Fitness Pal. I stuck rigidly to between 1200 and 1400 calories a day, allowed myself a treat at weekends, and constantly repeated a mantra inside my head “I’m dieting for the wedding, I won’t be a fat bridesmaid.”

As a former group fitness instructor and personal trainer, I was no stranger to hard work. I loved working out, but getting my nutrition right was something that always seemed to be just beyond my reach.

In the run up to my sister’s wedding, my focus was on one event – and while I do agree that goals should be specific and time measured, I think when it comes to weight loss, the SMART goal setting principle is massively flawed.

Setting a goal to lose weight for a certain event is a sure fire way to set yourself up for failure.

With all your focus on one thing, there is no lifestyle change.

I know, because I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I did it for my best friend’s wedding at the age of 21. I had no choice – our bridesmaid dresses had been bought from TK MAXX in whatever size we could get them. The style of dress meant there wasn’t much room for adjustment, so I had no choice but to diet to fit into it. At the time I was so proud of myself when I did fit into it, but looking back and remembering now, I wasn’t healthy. I walked five miles daily and ate less than 1000 calories a day for about three months. It wasn’t sustainable, and after the wedding I put weight on again.

A year later came my own wedding. Lather, rinse, repeat. That was 11 years ago and since then, a baby, a divorce, depression, and lots of big changes in my life have meant that the comfort eating, yo-yo-dieting, binge eating mentality has become so deeply rooted in my mind that I’ve often wondered if it was just my destiny to be fat.

Back to my sister’s wedding two years ago. Did I mention it was a destination wedding? She lived in Spain for two years, so it was only natural that she wanted to go back to that beautiful area again. We were going to be staying at luxury villa with a pool. I might have to wear – gasp – a bikini!!!

That was also motivation for me. I bought a tankini, and a bikini. I debated bringing the bikini, but closer to the time, having stuck to my “diet”, exercised really hard (I ran a half marathon during this time), I decided to pack it anyway.

The wedding was lovely, and on our days by the pool I wore my tankini for the first week or so. Then in the last four days, I decided to be brave and put on my bikini. I was being a little vain, I wanted an all over tan!!! Actually, vain probably isn’t the best word. Though I’d lost 35 lbs, I was nowhere near where I wanted to be and I was nervous about baring so much skin, but I was also aware that a tan might also help to hide the stretch marks a bit on my belly, so I sucked it up, sucked it in, and wore a bikini!

I needn’t have worried. No one really cared nor noticed. Or, if they did notice, they didn’t comment.

Though, I’m sure if I’d had six pack abs, someone would have commented.

Anyway, I got a lovely tan and came back feeling on top of the world.

Last year, we didn’t get a beach holiday. We had road trip around England which was more raincoats than bikinis, so at the start of 2016, when we started talking about holidays, we really were leaning towards a beach holiday.

It was a cold, dark January night and me and my parents were sitting around their kitchen table with a few glasses of wine after dinner. I was still in the very early days of my recovery from my car accident, and feeling very low. The weather was awful, the days were dark, and a sun holiday seemed like the ultimate pick me up.

So, we booked it, there and then. Two weeks in Spain in July.

My first thought: I’ve got 6 months to get a bikini body.

My second thought: Shit, my shoulder really hurts.

I pretty much accepted then that I wouldn’t have a bikini body. I was still in a lot of pain, the only exercise I was able to do was walking, and my mood was very low, which meant I was still in a comfort eating mentality. I was also really aware of the pattern of yo-yo dieting that I’d been in for a while, and I knew that I wanted to take steps to break the pattern. I also knew, however, that if I tried to set a goal for losing a certain amount of weight for my holiday, I would just be repeating that pattern all over again.

My recovery from my accident was slow and painful, and while I lost a few pounds, ran a 10k, and generally felt a bit healthier by the end of June, I was nowhere near “bikini body” ready.  

It didn’t matter, though.

I was determined to enjoy my holiday with my son and my family. The first day, I put my tankini on and covered up. I went down to the pool by our apartment and found a sun lounger. It was quiet, but when I looked around, I saw a few girls who were roughly around the same size as me – and another girl who was much bigger.

They were all wearing bikinis – and they didn’t care. They didn’t seem to make any attempt to cover up when they got off the sun lounger to get into the pool. The next day, I put my bikini on too, and tried not to worry too much – no one was looking at me anyway!

Now, let me make one thing clear – I am not in any way promoting or glorifying being overweight. I fully understand the health risks relating to being overweight or obese, and it’s something that I’m aware of in my own journey. I’m also not shaming those who do have a fuck-awesome bikini body. I take my hat off to those who work hard in the gym all year round to maintain it, and envy those who are lucky enough to be naturally lean without any hard work.

But what I am saying is, it’s okay if you aren’t where you want to be. It’s okay if you have a belly and you let it hang out on holiday and you don’t care. It’s okay if you have a washboard stomach and perfect butt and want to show off your body. It’s okay if you have stretch marks, cellulite and lumps and bumps. It’s okay if you DO want to wear a tankini and cover up your belly.

Do whatever the fuck makes YOU comfortable, and ENJOY your holiday time with your family. Precious memories were made with my son on that holiday. He didn’t care what I was wearing. There were all shapes and sizes at the beach, and everyone was having FUN.


That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like a better figure by next summer to show off in a bikini. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, thinking, and reflecting on my journey so far, and I don’t want to keep repeating this yo-yo pattern.

It’s not my destiny to be overweight.

I want to run a sub 60 10k.

I want to run another half marathon.

I want to run a marathon, maybe, someday.

I want to complete an Olympic distance Triathlon.

I want to do an Ironman, someday.

All of these things are possible to train for right now, but I know they’ll be easier if I lose some body fat.

I want to learn to surf, so I can take my son surfing. I’m too clumsy and heavy for that right now .

I want to go skiing again some day, and take my son on a skiing holiday.

Underneath this fat suit is the body of an athlete. One who, has never really been able to reach her full potential. For all the hard exercise I’ve done over the years, I’m proof that you can’t out-train a bad diet.

There’s only so many times you can go round in circles before you get absolutely sickened by the dizziness of it all. Before something snaps inside you and screams “ENOUGH!”

I am so ready to break this cycle. I am so ready to see what my body can do. I am so ready to reach my full potential.

As a way of keeping accountable, I am posting daily pictures on Instagram of my progress. The account is @each_sparkling_step and I’d love it if you’d come and join me over there to support my journey. Posts on this blog have been very sporadic, but I am committing to updating more regularly.

Follow my journey as I transform my health, body and mind.

And maybe get a bikini body while I’m at it 😉

 

Advertisements

A Righteous Rage

cropped-hum.jpg

An editorial by Melissa Blaine

 

She came into the bakery today.

I was nine hours into my twelve hour bake shift, rolling out twenty one loaves of bread like a zombie, not even watching my hands. She looked as fresh as a daisy, bright eyed and smiling; I was covered in flour and sourdough starter. She was in a pretty paisley skirt and dreadlocks, birkenstocks and arm warmers; I was in a ratty baseball cap, the same shirt I wore the day before and couldn’t even remember the last time I took a shower. Her eyeshadow was gold and her cheeks were perfectly pink and her lips were stained the same red as a strawberry; I don’t even know where my makeup bag is. She had dangly earrings and nails painted lilac and a necklace that hung down to her waist; I haven’t looked sideways at any of those things in months. Jewelry is no longer part of my repertoire and, although I own four bottles of nail polish, all of them are black. I rarely use them.

She glanced over the counter and caught my eye.

Smiled.

I ducked my head and continued rolling dough, flaming around the edges.

image

I used to be just like her. Used to spend hours getting dressed; a closet full of clothing and nothing to wear, a box full of makeup and a newly mastered cat eye, a love affair with my eleven million pairs of sandals. I used to go to the salon, tried out every color in the book, rocked blue and purple, pink and silver. I used to drop chunks of my paycheck on expensive makeup. Used to binge-shop my way through clearance racks and thrift stores, my long suffering husband glaring openly at the clothing I was about to try to stuff into my tiny, overflowing closet.

I look in the mirror these days, and I barely recognize myself.

Something changed, somewhere along the way. Maybe I stopped caring, or started caring a little less. Maybe I began caring a lot more about things that, before, seemed completely inconsequential but suddenly shifted into the limelight.

What changed?

A lot, actually. I grew up. Grew out. Grew older, badder, bolder. I got married. Had a baby. Took a job a bakery that demands half of my heart and almost every spare second of my time. Bought a house. Started a retirement account. Pretend to be an adult most days, even though I’m still fairly certain I’m only nineteen and dreaming.

I am soft in places that once were hard, and hard in places that once were soft.

I’ve always called myself a feminist.

In high school, feminism was a future. It meant Ani Difranco and clove cigarettes and cheap beer. It meant shaving my head for the shock value. It meant notebooks scribbled full of angsty poetry that I read out loud at open mic nights and felt extra accomplished when I made someone cry. Double points if I made myself cry. It meant refusing makeup and deoderant and razors. It meant my first tattoo and a nose ring. It meant kissing girls for fun and kissing boys for no good reason.

In my twenties, feminism was a fight. I tramped the streets in the evenings, going door-to-door for the rape crises center, spreading information and signing girls up for self defense and running away from people’s dogs. I went to bars and decided that I liked whiskey on the rocks, straight up, because it made me feel tough. I told men who hit on me that I was a concrete mixer by trade, just to see the looks on their faces. I made out with girls, made out with boys. I still listened to Ani DiFranco, but I went balls deep for Bikini Kill and the Distillers and Le Tigre. I stood on street corners with signs, protesting abortion bans, protesting prostitution bans, protesting , protesting, protesting.

Now, I’m thirty two.

Today, feminist looks and feels and smells completely different.

Today, it means that I stand in the mirror and glare at my c-sections scar and try to ignore the incessant din of voices that make me feel like I didn’t do it ‘right’ or ‘hard enough,’ or ‘successfully.’ (That’s a whole other blog post…) Today, it means that I wear leggings every day and have barely glanced at my makeup bag in almost a week. It means that I no longer slouch off to the bathroom with my tampon hidden in my hand or shoved deep into my pocket; I hold that thing out there loud and proud because yes, I bleed, for an entire week thank you, and I can still work a fourteen hour on-my-feet shift and then go home to play with my kid while I do it. It means that I work in a field dominated by men and made five of them blush and stammer and apologize for using the word ‘pussy’ in a derogatory way, even though I’m not the one who would crumple to the floor if we all got a swift kick between the legs.

I still listen to Ani Difranco.

I still sometimes dream about dreadlocks.

I will always have some righteous rage buried in me.

image

 

I stashed the last of my bread in the proof box to rise and dumped the half full cup of coffee I had forgotten about four hours earlier into the sink before stumbling to the coffee station.Creamer and sugar and a splash of coffee, stirring it together much longer than necessary when I heard a voice to my left tell me that they liked my hair.

Dreadlock girl. Smiling.

At me.

Me?

“That’s such a nice color!” She says, still smiles. “And your tattoos, I love those too. You’re like the way cooler version of me.”

I blinked at her. Blinked again. Remembered to say thank you, rather than what my brain was thinking (which was a jumble of ‘My hair hasn’t been dyed in so long, I’m like a bad version of a My Little Pony,’ ‘I haven’t gotten a new tattoo in two years and I miss it,’ ‘I wonder how bad the bags around my eyes are right now?’ ‘The baby woke me up four times last night, so probably pretty bad,’ ‘Do I smell?’ ‘Yeah,’ ‘You definitely didn’t put on deoderant on today.’)

Dreadlock girl gave me another dazzling smile before she bounced away and I spent the entire rest of the day thinking about her. Twenty two loaves of bread. Sixty four cookies. A batch of pastry dough, a container of cream cheese frosting, two sheet trays of key lime and raspberry bars. Four more solid hours and I was still thinking about her when I drug myself home, feeling ugly and grumpy and smelling of butter. I walked through the door to the boy and the baby, both smiling at me like I was the sunshine on a very dark day.

So, I guess that, today, feminism means self acceptance. Sure, I’m lumpy. And awkward and angry and am basically one big giant under-eye circle. I have a close and personal relationship with my spanx, and I still have a stash of size two jeans that I will never fit into again. I stand at the kitchen counter eating tim tams and drinking lavender tea at three in the morning when I can’t sleep and I huff behind the stroller most afternoons, trying to work those tim tams off. I haven’t looked sideways at an underwire bra in almost two years. I sometimes put on mascara. I mostly remember my deodorant. I am evolving into a version of me that I don’t recognize at all some days, and other days feel too familiar with.

And that’s, ok.

For right now, I’m ok.

 

image

 

image

Melissa Blaine is a lover, mother, worshipper at the throne of words, and fucking badass woman. She is a three am baker, a closet fic writer, a band wife, and double layers her spanx when she needs to feel in control of her life.

She works at an organic, all natural, locally sourced bakery in cafe in a little Colorado mountain town where snow drops like a bag of flour and cattle meander down Main Street.

You can find more of her passionate words here.

 

hum - floral2

From the ladies of HUM:

Melissa,

Thank you so much for this wonderful post. Your words inspire great introspection.

With love, H U M

Happy International Poetry Day!

I don’t think I’ve written a poem since school, but some heavy words have been buzzing around in my head today, so I played around a little with them.

~

Hold tight

Hold fast

Hold strong

Push through

Grasp,  clench,  cling for dear life

Kick hard against that current

Don’t let it sweep you away

It wants to lure you in

To it’s dark, murky depth

It wants to stifle your pulse

It wants steal your breath

Kick hard, paddle paddle

Against that tumultuous tide

Even when your arms ache

And your legs throb

And all you want to do is sob

Go ahead – sob

But hold tight 

Hold fast

The pain won’t last

When your tether is all but gossamer thread

And your mind clouds over with eerie dread

Hold tight

Hold fast

I’ll give you hope

Make that thread a rope

Breathe for you

Tow you back to shore

Hold fast

Hold tight

You’ll make it through the night.

~

Happy International Poetry Day!

Love, Mia.

xo

 

Tango Twist on a Taco Salad

cropped-hum.jpg

By Perry Noël

 

Healthy Cooking…Maybe

My fear of writing for this blog was that I’d have nothing to say. On a daily basis, I have little bits to say about a lot of things. Ha! I like to keep my foot in the door on all issues, I guess. But today I’m going to talk food. Yes, food because it’s a no brainer for me, and since I’ve had little sleep this week due to my daughter’s nurse taking vacation, this will be an easy one for me. One of the many things I’m passionate about is what I put in my mouth (hey, don’t go there…this is totally about food, not dick.) My friends refer to me as a foodie, and I’ve passed this love of good food down to my son Colton. His palate is complex (sometimes) even though he loves Taco Bell, McDonalds and a whole host of other disgusting fast food chains. But when he was twelve years or so, he requested braised short ribs with goat cheese polenta for his birthday dinner. After I laughed at his request, I was in awe of this mini-me for asking for a meal I’d enjoy as well. But as far as fast food goes, I limit myself on those types of food,image choosing to make my own
healthy cuisine. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good fast food taco every once in awhile but definitely not from Taco Bell. I prefer to go with local chains or a mom and pop restaurant.

So, since I don’t exercise ( I know, I know,) I try to cook healthy. If I don’t have fresh fruit in my house at all times, I freak the fuck out. Seriously, I go ape shit and stock up in the organic section at the grocery store, spending WAY too much money. Anyway, keeping with my love of tacos here is what I do when I’m craving Mexican food: taco salad. It’s stupid-easy. It’s not gourmet by any means, but it fills you up and you don’t feel guilty. Plus, it’s so versatile that you can tweak it to your liking.

Taco Salad

1 lb. ground sirloin

1 -2 T Homemade taco seasoning *recipe down below

1 can chili beans

(I just eye this part and make as much as I think we will eat)

Iceberg lettuce, shredded

Romaine lettuce, shredded

Tomato, diced

Red onion, diced or sliced 

Green Onions

Avocado, diced

Black Olives, sliced

Cilantro

Kidney Beans or Black Beans, rinsed and drained

Sour Cream

Shredded Cheese of your choice

And…

If you want to make it a little less healthy like I do sometimes,

Catalina Salad dressing for drizzling on top

Nacho-flavored Doritos or Tortilla chips, crushed for a garnish

(add anything else you desire)

STEP 1

Brown beef in skillet with salt and pepper. You may also add garlic powder, oregano and red pepper flakes to taste for a more flavorful combination. 

When meat is fully cooked, add taco seasoning and 1 can of chili beans. If mixture is too thick, add ¼ c of water. Stir, letting the meat mixture heat through, then set aside.

You can either assemble your salads individually because sometimes the picky jerks in the family will complain, trust me on that one, or you can throw it all together in a huge bowl and mix. If you do this, you’ll have to scarf the whole thing down because the lettuce will be all sorts of nasty if you try to save it for leftovers. 

**Taco Seasoning**
Enough for 1 lb of meat
1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Enjoy!

Let me know what you think!

Xo, Gee

 

Poll: What’s coming next?

cropped-hum.jpg

 

Once Upon a Feminist…

cropped-hum.jpg

By Madi Merek

Fairytales were soaked in patriarchy … until I lit them all on fire.

Fairy-whats?

You read that right: Fairytales.

  1. a:  a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins) —called also fairy story
    b:  a story in which improbable events lead to a happy ending

  2. a:  a made-up story usually designed to mislead

This won’t be an angry woman’s rant against fairytales—The Little Mermaid will always be one of my favorite movies—but rather an internal examination of self-worth and evolution.

 

Then.

I wasn’t born this way.

Growing up in a tight-knit, Evangelical community, I was taught to associate feminism with all things evil, like four-letter words and sex. My earliest memories are of being made to wear dresses and lift my pinky from a teacup; the greatest wish of my young life was to get married and have babies.

I subscribed to a popular wedding planning magazine at the age of thirteen and established for myself an idol of perfection which would never come to fruition.

At eighteen, I met the man who would become my husband. He was light in my dark world—not because he was so very different that everything I knew (he was a Messianic Rabbi’s son, after all), but because he was flint to the spark in me.

We were married three months before my twenty-first birthday, and I was young and naïve to the world, and our move to Los Angeles came on the cusp of the Great Recession. My new husband had an expensive degree and no chance of getting a good job. Worry and misery were constant companions.

In March 2010, at twenty-two years old, I found out I was pregnant with our daughter. She was unplanned and (because I’m striving for honesty here) unwelcome in the midst of a struggling economy, a poor financial outlook, and little hope of changing our situation. This was the first time I ever considered abortion as a viable option to a situation.

I can hear the gasps already.

It was a fleeting thought, brought on by a very painful and terrifying situation, but it happened, and it started a chain of events that forever altered the course of my life. But more on that in another post.

Scarlett Rose was born November 17, 2010, at 12:56 PM.

We didn’t know until the next morning that she’d suffered a stroke—yes, stroke—in utero at some point in the last two weeks of the pregnancy. The moment the NICU doctor came to my recovery room and explained to my husband and me that our newborn was having “involuntary impulses” (aka seizures), I realized I was naught but a child myself, with no idea how to be an adult woman with the strength I’d need to get through.

 

Not a Girl Anymore. 

The five-and-a-half years following my great awakening, have proved trying and rewarding in equal measures. 

I learned that choices come with true consequences—not just the hype of hell-fire and brimstone, but real, aching, powerful, painful, rewarding consequences. 

I learned, for instance, that bulimia is not the answer to health. 

I learned that money is fleeting and debt is a real and tangible monster with sharp teeth. 

I learned that marriage doesn’t look like an episode of Desperate Housewives and that my old expectations were vile things I should never have whipped up in my mind.  

I learned that those words I’d grown up believing were wicked and dangerous were actually powerful and gratifying, and that religion and goodness were not mutually exclusive. 

I learned that fairytales were warnings, not life goals. 

I learned how to be a woman. 

And my story is still unfolding.

 

Life is Short.

cropped-hum.jpg

By Mia Williams

 

There’s an age-old cliché that goes something like, “life can change in the blink of an eye.” 

I used to think that was crazy.  I mean, whoever said that, what did they define “life” as?

What is life to you?

The things we do day in day out, job,  family, routine.

A happy marriage, two point four children and a nine to five job.  The crazy adventurer hanging off a cliff edge for the perfect photo op. The billionaire CEO who’s married to his job,  perpetually lonely with only a bottle of whiskey for company. The single mother working two jobs just to keep a roof over her and her son’s head. The homeless girl who busks on her guitar and sings outside the city hall gates.

That’s the thing about life. It’s different for everyone. We all choose our path. The choices we make dictate our present. Sometimes, other people’s choices affect our present and we have no say in it. That’s when you have to brace yourself, plant those feet strong, paddle harder and learn to ride the waves anyway.

They also say life is short, but I always thought that was stupid saying too. Life is hella long.

So how can it change in the blink of an eye? Less than a second. How can one tiny, seemingly inconsequential measure of time, change your whole life?

What if that billionaire CEO walked past that busker on his way to lunch one day? Maybe he decided he’d loved the way her voice sounded, the way it wrapped around each syllable. Maybe it soothed him. Maybe their eyes would meet and there’d be that instant, serendipitous moment that his soul said, “there you are, I’ve been waiting for you.” 

Both their lives would change in the blink of an eye. Their worlds would be turned upside down.

Only in the movies, right?

What if that crazy photographers hand slipped? Just a half inch. The stone beneath his fingers crumbles like quicksand and he topples, falling over the edge to his death.

Splat. Just like that.

His loved ones’ lives would change in the blink of an eye.  He was there, and then he was gone. A tragedy like that would make many who knew him re-think their priorities in life. Make them realize that life is, in fact, really short.

About a year ago, I heard about the death of a girl who was in the year above me at school. She would have been around thirty-two when she died.

She died of breast cancer.

That was weird, at first, to hear. Remember that cliche of the billionaire falling for the homeless busker girl? Only in the movies, right? Or the romance novels? Well it was weird to hear about this girl dying of breast cancer, because, shortly before that, I had written a short fictional story about a young woman who had died of breast cancer, at around that age.

I remember thinking it was strange, because, things like that only happened in the books or movies.

Life had imitated art.

Things like that didn’t happen to us. To people we knew. To people we went to school with.

Things like that don’t happen because we’re young, and we’re invincible, and we think we have forever.

We procrastinate and constantly say, “I’ll do it later,” because we think we have all the time in the world.

We hear of things on the news all the time that make us stop what we’re doing and think, “Shit, life is so cruel. Life is so short. Poor Kid. So young. What a waste.”

It sobers us for a minute. Maybe we feel sad and maybe even, if you’re anything like me, your eyes sting a little bit with the tears that want to fall. You blink them away really fast because you’re in company and you hate crying in front of other people.

But then it’s gone as soon as it comes. Life goes on. The everyday busyness takes over again and we go about our day, rushing around, dropping kids off, going to work, picking kids up, homework, housework, tv, prep for tomorrow.

Rush. Sleep. Repeat.

It’s different, though, when something major happens to someone we love. To a family member, friend, or even just that acquaintance you remembered from school.

And what then, when it does?

What if life does change in the blink of an eye? What if something happens that makes you realize that, damn, life is so short?

I’ll tell you something, when your car hits black ice on a narrow country road, things do happen faster than you can blink.

Life does change in the blink of an eye.

November 20th, 2015. It was an icy Friday morning. It had been a strange week. Mild, I think, is the word most forecasters would use to describe it. I remember going to the school gates on the Wednesday in a cardigan because I didn’t think it was cold enough for my thick down winter coat.

I remember sleeping that Thursday night with one leg sticking out of the duvet cover because I was too warm. I remember not really needing the heating on in the house much that week, because it was unusually mild for November.

That morning, I was wearing capri leggings for work (I work in a role that requires t-shirts and shorts/leggings/tracksuits). I remember coming out of the house to put my work bag into the car while my son was still putting on his coat and shoes. I remember the goosebumps that rose on the exposed skin of my lower legs and thinking to myself that I really should wear more sensible trousers on the colder mornings and then change when I get to work. I remember looking at the white diamonds sparkling on my drive way, thinking that the ice was really pretty, but holy crap it’s freezing this morning.

I threw my bag in the car and started up the engine. I turned the heat on and ran back into the house to get a jug of warm water to clear the car windscreen which had totally frozen over in the night.

I didn’t moan and groan about it. I didn’t mumble or curse under my breath about it. I just did it, as I had many times before. We’re used to cold weather in Northern Ireland, and it was nothing out of the ordinary. It was more unusual that it had been so mild earlier in the week.

We set off in the car so I could drop my son off to school before I went to work. He chirped and chatted from the back seat while I maneuvered the bendy, bumpy country road. I remember thinking that it was so quiet that morning, as I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw just a lone car about half a mile behind me.

It’s about a four-mile journey along a country road from the village where we lived into the town where my son went to school. It’s a road I’ve travelled countless times and a road I know like the back of my hand. I know every bump and bend and curve and tight corner. I took it slow, because I knew it was icy.

About half way into town, there’s a straight stretch of road. It’s maybe only 200 yards but it’s the straightest part of that particular road.

A road like this, you would think that an accident would happen on one of the really sharp bends or bumps. That someone who maybe didn’t know the road that well would misjudge a corner and oversteer, crossing over the centre line and meeting another car in the middle.

So when my car suddenly started to swerve on that straight stretch of road, that diamond sparkle ice wasn’t so pretty anymore.

It happened in the blink of an eye. 

So fast. There wasn’t time to think. All I can remember is grabbing the steering wheel and trying to correct. It didn’t work. We did a one-eighty and I remember thinking, “this is it.”

This was what?

This is it, we’re going to crash?

This is it, I’m going to die?

I have no idea, but as soon as I thought it, my world was bathed in black and red.

I won’t say my life flashed before my eyes. I won’t say I had a near death experience and saw a blinding white light. I won’t say a higher being sent me back, telling me it wasn’t my time yet.

I had blacked out, and while unconscious, I was in strange dream like state where images and pictured swirled and muddled around my brain. It truly was just like sleeping at night, but much shorter. It was accompanied by a strange sense of peace. It lasted only seconds, but I have no idea how long I was out for. I don’t think it was anymore than a few minutes, but when I came around, there was just confusion and pain, and my son crying and asking, “Mummy, are you okay?” The car was upside down and I was still strapped in by my seatbelt. I don’t know if I took my seatbelt off, or my son did took it off; things are hazy but all I remember is the agony down the right side of my body and being unable to move my head or neck as I fell out of the seat on to the floor (the roof of the upside down car).

There was a girl there in her robe and pyjamas and a guy on his cell phone. It was all very hazy, and I have no idea how much time passed before they were joined by an older man and woman who were asking me if I could move, where did it hurt, what was my name, what was my son’s name?

I was going a little crazy. Later, I would hear the paramedic telling my father at the hospital that “she lost the plot for a bit back there.” I can laugh about that now, but I think at the time I really was panicking. After a while I was able to move my head a little, although the agony was blinding, and was able to turn and see my six year old son, sitting on his haunches, looking down at me with concerned eyes. He’d managed to get himself unstrapped from his car seat and crawl over to me. He appeared to be fine from what I could see, but I was still going crazy because I had no idea what had happened, how bad the damage was, if he had any internal injuries or bleeding, not to mention my own pain.

Things were hazy, and I had no idea how much time had passed. There were disembodied voices all around me, sirens, the younger woman talking to my son about school and trying to distract him. There was talk about having to cut me out of the car. I don’t think they had to in the end.

Thankfully, they eventually got me and my son out of the car. He went in a separate ambulance and the paramedic that was with me in the ambulance quietly told me that we were very lucky, that my son was fine, and that his car seat probably saved his life.

When I was arrived at hospital, my son was already being x-rayed. When his bed was wheeled back in, he was sitting up on it with a smile on his face, playing with his LeapPad. The same LeapPad we hadn’t been able to find at home for weeks. I’d searched the house high and low. I’d asked my mother several times if we’d left it at her house. I’d asked my son’s father several times if he’d left it at his house. It had been in the car all along, I guess. Maybe trapped under a seat or in a seat pocket. He’d found it in the car and brought it in the ambulance with him. I remember laughing at the time, but then stopping because it hurt so damn much to laugh. Thankfully, he had no broken bones, no damage, no concussion. Just a small scrape on his arm where his seatbelt had dug into him.

X-rays revealed three broken ribs and what the doctor described as “quite bad damage to the ligaments in your shoulder.” Oh really?  “You’ll be sore for a while,” he said.

No shit, Sherlock.

It was agony. My whole shoulder felt shattered, like someone had bashed it repeatedly with a baseball bat.  I couldn’t move my right arm. I couldn’t lift it or move away from my body at all. I was sent home with a referral to the fracture clinic two weeks later. I had to call in sick to work, and my parents took me to their house to stay. I was bed bound for the first few weeks. I showered, but didn’t wash my hair because I couldn’t reach it. I didn’t wear a bra because I couldn’t reach behind me to do the clasp. Even if my mum did it for me, I couldn’t stand having the strap on my shoulder because there was so much pain and swelling.

I was pretty doped up for a few weeks, and that took the edge off the pain. A visit to the fracture clinic and further x-rays confirmed that I had a grade three separation of the acromioclavicular joint. Basically, where the collarbone meets the shoulder is dislocated. It’s kind of gross, and I have a huge bump sticking out which is the end of my collarbone. If it was a grade four separation, it would require surgery, but the doctor advised that with a grade three, surgery is an absolute last resort. He said that with therapy it should heal within 12 weeks.

Three months on, I’m having physical therapy and slowly regaining the use of my right arm. At first, it hurt to brush my teeth with my right hand. I couldn’t carry anything heavier than a cup of tea. I have a better range of motion in it now, but it’s still sore some days and not 100% yet. I am still off work due to the physical nature of my job which requires full use and full range of motion in both arms.

That’s how my life changed in the blink of an eye, because an injury like that is so limiting. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely know how lucky I am. I can walk. I didn’t break my neck, or my spine. I am not in a wheelchair and I did not suffer a major head injury.

I am so thankful it wasn’t worse. When I saw photographs of the car, that my Dad had taken earlier that day, I was horrified. I honestly wondered how we were still alive. I truly believe we have a guardian angel.

That said, my injury was painful and complicated and very limiting. It’s the small things that we take for granted every day  – like brushing your teeth and putting on a bra. I wasn’t allowed to drive and couldn’t carry out daily basic household chores.

As a result, I decided to move back in with my parents. Not just stay with them while recuperating, but actually move back in with them. I was living about a half hour drive away from them, and as a single parent – that’s a blog post for another time – it’s hard not having your family around you to support you in difficult times.

At first, I dug my heels in. At the age of thirty-two, having managed on my own for a long time, how could I go back to living with my parents? They are quite easy going anyway, and we get along well, but for me it felt like a step back.

But, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. On my own, I had no life. I rushed my son to school, went to work, rushed to pick him  up from school, rushed back to work, didn’t get home until after 7pm most evenings, to then start into homework and bedtime routine and cooking dinner. AND do housework and get prepared to do it all again the next day. Sound familiar? Sure. I know most families do this. But when you’re a single parent and you do it ALL yourself, it’s ten times harder.

So, here I find myself living back at my parents house. Living in a town I didn’t think I would live in again. It’s been an adjustment for sure. Life has been turned upside down. Things are so different from what they were six months ago. Change is always hard, and it has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

Life changed in the blink of an eye.

A split second where rubber met black ice – changed my whole life. And you know what? As much as it was a shock at the time and I cried a lot of tears over my wrecked car and and bashed in shoulder – it has absolutely been a blessing in disguise.

I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe that this accident happened because my life needed to slow down a bit. I had been procrastinating on certain things in my life for years. I constantly put things off. There are so many things that I’ve been wanting to do for years. As much as I love my job, I hated the hours and how draining it was physically. I’ve been wanting to go back to education for a long time to do something new, but always put it off because there was no way I’d be able to manage as a single parent while studying and not working.  I had no time to write, I had no social life, and I had no quality time with my son or my family.

That’s not a life, it’s merely existing.

Now, I collect my son from school every day and sit with him while he does his homework. Sure, he complains sometimes about it and there are still tantrums and screaming matches. Any parent who says there isn’t is a liar. But my son is so much more settled now that we have quality time together during the week. Before, I worked all week and then he went to his father’s for the weekend. I was worried that my relationship with my son was suffering because of how crazy our life was.

Time is precious.

I have been finding time for my favourite things again: reading, writing and blogging. I have been taking time out for myself my priorities have shifted. Life is not a race against the clock. It should be enjoyed. I’m not saying it’s ever going to be easy – challenges are what make us who we are.

But no one is promised tomorrow. Since I’ve had my car accident, I’ve heard of other car accidents where the driver/passengers were killed. Why were we spared? My beliefs on the spiritual ins and outs of all that are for another blog post, but I know it wasn’t our time. I know that we are still here for a reason. I know that I have a lot to accomplish on this earth and I’m no longer going to sit back and let life pass me by. I’m going to do the things that I love. I’m going to see the places I want to see. I’m going to be thankful for each day, and enjoy every second.

Life is too damn short not to.

 

The Ugly Truth.

cropped-hum.jpg

By Perry Noël

Today I’m going to write about something very close to my heart.

Being a mom to ten-year-old special needs child with a life-threatening disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1, who requires constant care, I find it hard to have any semblance of what one would deem a ‘normal’ life.

Would I change my life if given the chance? Let me think about this. I’d change my daughter’s life if I could. I’d like for her to hold a toy or to experience the typical things a ten-year-old girl gets to do. Like go the movies with friends and have sleepovers—just to name a few. As for me, absolutely not because I feel I have been entrusted with the most important gift a mother could ever have by nurturing and protecting such an innocent child, who is wholly dependent on others every single moment, one who will never grow up and move on into the world as a self-sufficient adult.

What I would change, though, is home health care. It sucks at best, but if you’re lucky, you find that one GREAT nurse. Unfortunately, the good ones don’t stay long, which pisses me off, and I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Our situation is extreme. On the nursing scale of one to ten we are a big, fat ten! In one big breath, here are the deets:

My daughter requires a ventilator to breathe, a feeding pump to eat, a suction machine because she cannot move secretions out of her lungs, mouth or nose, and several other machines to live comfortably on a daily basis. Breathing treatments, chest physiotherapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, homebound school, and feedings are spread throughout the day. This is a huge undertaking for any human being to deal with. As her parent, I’ve dealt with all the issues, ups and downs, and have been blessed with the happy little moments that keep me going every day. But to some stranger (nurses,) this can be overwhelming, and sometimes, they will slack on their duties which could very well threaten my daughter’s life.

Let’s talk about home health care. It doesn’t pay as well as working in a hospital and the benefits are laughable. Ten years of struggling to keep staffed has been a headache—no, it’s been a fucking migraine from HELL. Not only are we a revolving door, receiving inadequate nurses, we open our home to GOD-only-knows-who and hope for the best. Honestly, I think I should choreograph a please-send-a-reliable-knowledgeable-nurse rain dance.  And here is the moment I warned you about and why I get pissed off. I require training designed specifically for my child. Not all kids are alike. She’s nonverbal and cannot move a muscle. Okay, I lied. She can move a finger very slightly if you hold up her hand for her, so it’s imperative that we have skilled nursing and ones who get to know our daughter and the signs she exhibits. We need ones who know her signs of distress—before the monitors alarm.

Most nursing agencies only require a day of training.

Can you believe that shit? How can anyone know anything, especially about your child or loved one, in less than 24 hours? I’m also probably one of a select few who requires more training for my nurses but this should be mandatory. I refuse to turn anyone loose with my baby until I feel comfortable. That’s also why I’ve become a recluse. (I know weird, right?) I rarely leave the house just in case I’m needed. It’s called mom guilt but I’m working on that.

Let me start out by saying not all nurses who are employed by home health agencies are lazy, but the majority I have found are very much so. Or maybe it’s that they become complacent and take advantage our kindness. Whatever it is, it sucks. So as I write this blog post, I’m throwing down with a whole pot of French press coffee at 3 a.m. because guess what? You guessed it, no night nurse. Sigh. I think I might die from lack of sleep or turn into an eighty-year-old looking forty-seven-year-old. Thank God I’ve been blessed with decent genes but those can only last so long, right?

In conclusion, I think there has to be some sort of resolution to the plight of moms and dads all over the country in our same or similar situation. WE NEED GREAT, DEPENDABLE, SKILLED NURSES. Home health care should be considered a privilege to work for not some graveyard where old nurses who can’t function in other settings go to do a shitty job, then retire. I know I sound harsh and I will die a thousand deaths if my amazing day shift nurse ever gets a hold of this blog and reads this post because folks, she is the one percent that is so totally amazing and I would cry my eyes out if we lost her. She loves our daughter and loves our family. We are so very thankful for her and we love her to pieces. So why can’t all the nurses be like Courtney? *taps head and gulps more coffee*

So, there you have my first blog RANT. I’m a little embarrassed to call it a post because of all the bitching and shit I slung. I hope you join me again. It’s been real!

XO,

Gee